Instead of taking a page from New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and slut-shaming teen girls into abstinence, the Chicago Department of Public Health has reframed the conversation to focus on potential teen fathers who — in keeping with the gender double standard in this patriarchal society — tend to dodge the stigma of early parenthood.
At the Windy City’s bus stops and on billboards across the city, the ‘Unexpected’ campaign shows the bodies of teen boys — one Black and one Hispanic — photoshopped to appear pregnant, with the warning:
“Unexpected? Most ten pregnancies are. Use condoms. Or wait.”
“We wanted to create an ad campaign that would cut through the clutter and get people thinking about teen pregnancy and teen births, and how it can affect more than just teen girls,” said Brian Richardson, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Health.
The daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen moms themselves. And the sons of teen moms are more likely to go to prison. These are challenges that go beyond one girl or one woman.”
The campaign is modeled after a similar one in Milwaukee that allegedly lead to a 10 percent reduction in the teen pregnancy rate.
And that is where the blame-game gets one-sided. The challenges not only go beyond ‘one girl or one woman,’ they extend beyond one boy or one man — or even two communities.
You can’t mention teen pregnancy, and Black and Brown men, without mentioning the Prison Industrial complex. Or the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is prioritizing sports stadiums over education, closing 50 Chicago Public Schools while investing in a $55 million basketball stadium.
Instead of actively pursuing health, financial and educational equity, it seems to me the City of Chicago is telling its Black and Brown young men “watch your back, don’t resist [arrest], wear a condom, and whatever you do — in the words of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, respectively — don’t make “excuses” or aspire to be “ballers and rappers.”
Let’s be clear: Personal responsibility is a necessity and condoms are non-negotiable — and the sooner teens learn that, the better. The sooner teen boys understand that they are equally responsible when pregnancies occur, the better.
But without a comprehensive approach to community advancement that includes addressing the intergeneration theft of resources, judicial disparities, sub-par healthcare, safe housing, police brutality as opposed to protection and a competitive education, slapping a couple of pregnant boys on bus stops will only put a dent in the problem — if that.
Teen pregnancy in urban communities is a symptom of much larger racial and cultural issues.
I’m still waiting on the billboard that says that.